January 29, 2009 1:29:51 am
His average day begins at 3 am,roaming the suburbs on a bicycle and distributing milk packets from door to door. Later in the day,after the family business is being taken care of,he picks his books,a notepad,a pen and steps out to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP),Borivali,in an endeavour to track its floral bio-diversity and protect it from destruction.
Twenty two-year-old Santosh Lalji Yadav,son of a milk supplier from a Dahisar chawl with three dependent siblings,whose sheer passion for conservation sent him on the road of academics six years ago will receive the Young Naturalist Sanctuary-RBS Wildlife Awards 2008,on Thursday,for his inimitable efforts in protecting the fragile habitats of the city and the state.
After studiously and consistently documenting plant diversity in the SGNP ¿ a passion since he was 16 Yadav is currently recording the flora of Roha taluka in Raigad and in Nasik where he has already listed 1,500 species of plants. He is also working at Dediapada taluka in Narmada district. Borivali Park is a unique place and my first love,he says adding,Its just a 103 sq meter forest but has over 1,300 species of plants besides a large species of reptiles and mammals. And yes,the existence of leopards in this small park is a wonder.
A post-graduate in angiosperm taxonomy from St Xaviers College,Fort,Yadav recalls his initial encounter with formal education: I was an average student throughout school and college. During my BSc days in Thakur College,Kandivli,only two subjects interested me ¿ botany and zoology. But my first revelation came when I visited the interiors of the SGNP for a field visit. Suddenly,I was hooked to the forest and there has been no looking back ever since. Yadavs first trail was at Silonda about 2 km inside the park.
Still awed by the experience,he says,That was a field visit for my botany class and it struck me how the forest has its own life its own laws. It was its own ecosystem,fresh and untainted despite being so close to a city. And I learnt that it was the mother of all water sources in the city.
In the years to come,Yadav was compelled to return to the forest time and again,simply out of sheer admiration he had developed for it. At the end of my Bachelors,I began identifying,understanding and classifying several plant species just by spending time with them and studying them, he says. He completed his MSc studying and documenting the major fruiting trees at SGNP.
Tireless,humble and reserved,Yadav attributes his boundless energy to Dr Marselin Almeida,one of Indias finest botanists,who he adopted as his teacher years ago. Recently,with Almeida,he re-classified two plants Phrynium cannaefolia and Atlantia acidissima,which were wrongly classified.
Earth Heroes 2008
* Lifetime Service Award : Fateh Singh Rathore,ex-field director of Ranthambhor Tiger Reserve
* The Wind Under the Wings Award: Bahar Datt,environmental editor of CNN IBN
* Young Naturalist Awards : Haseena and Tajunnisa who pioneered a community led environmental revolution at Lakshadweep and Santosh Yadav
* Green Teacher Award: Chain Roop Dayma,a teacher in Chhapar,Rajasthan who worked towards reducing the menace of Prosopis Juliflora,a thorny shrub that is gradually wiping out the biodiversity of the region
* Wildlife Service Awards which will be presented to five environmentalists
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